An early look at Apple News

At WWDC15 Apple showed of their new News App. Part RSS reader, part Flipboard, it’s Apple’s answer to Facebook’s Instant Articles and a reset of their (failed) Newsstand initiative.

Although Apple News is only available in the US for the moment, anyone who changes their iOS device’s region settings to United States (and runs the latest beta) can try out the new platform. So, being the impatient Apple fan that I am, that’s what I did this weekend.

Organization-wise the app feels and works a lot like the new Music App. There’s a For You section based on what you Love, you can explore and search for specific sources, and there are sections to explore what you’ve marked as interesting: a Saved section for anything you’ve saved to (presumably) read later, and a Favorites section to browse the categories you’re subscribed too.

The app’s very clean, but I’m missing a few things I’m used too from other news apps. For example: although I like the idea of For You being homepage that shows you what’s new or interesting, there’s no notion of a read/unread state anywhere in the app. For the completionists who want to read everything a website publishes, the only option is opening each Favorited Site and browse the latest posts. You can’t just start reading and paging from one new item to the other until you’ve read it all like in other (RSS) apps.

Secondly, although there’s a Saved section for articles you want to read later, there’s no integration with Reading List, Apple’s other option to collect interesting news you want to read. If you discover something interesting online that you want to read when you’ve got the time, you now need to remember when or where you saved it. Did I save this while reading MacStories in Safari via Reading List? Or while reading it in News? Integrating Reading List in News seems like the logical next step.

This is yet another example of Apple creating something new that replaces an existing feature, but keeping the existing feature around (Photostream, iTunes Match, the iPad mini 2, …)

Aside from these two annoyances, I really like the experience. Articles are nicely rendered and for most of the sites I tested images appear where they should. The availability of the Sharing Sheet is handy too. One gripe: they should’ve added the same Text and Display options as iBooks offers: change the text size, add a dark mode,…

Is the app something for me? Not as my primary app to keep me up to date.I love browsing a selected list of RSS feeds in Unread and knowing I’ve read it all. But as a secondary app that offers a selection of interesting articles, I can see this app becoming a nice addition to my homescreen. Especially for when I just want to keep up to date on stuff that I don’t follow as closely.